The 2022 Six Nations is one of the most promising ever
The 2022 Six Nations Championship kicks off this weekend as the six top rugby union nations from the northern hemisphere go head-to-head once again in what I believe will be the best and most competitive Six Nations tournament we’ve seen in many years.
The Six Nations, like the Premiership, has such an abundance of depth and talent that most games are likely to go down to the wire, twist and turns are likely and perhaps even a few freak results can be expected. It’s all truly fascinating fare that comes to a head with Super Saturday on 19 March. I know where I, and many of you, will be for the following six weekends!
Wales will be looking to retain the trophy they surprisingly won as series underdogs in 2021, but France’s impressive crop of current talents may have something to say about that.
England and especially Ireland come into the competition on the back of strong Autumn Nations series wins while Scotland is a dark horse capable of an upset and Italy, well, I can only hope that last year’s revival at Benetton can bring some more Six Nations spirit to this team so they can go out onto the field being more competitive.
Let’s take a closer look at the teams:
They have a big and deep pool of players to draw from and should be doing much better than they’ve done since the 2019 World Cup. I still believe that Eddie Jones is a hinderance to England. He may have the so-called ‘small man syndrome’, plays mind games and thinks the team revolves around himself and not the players. I wish he’d stop all that and let the team do the talking.
England have a lot going for them, a big, strong pack with brilliant players to choose from in the back row – 23-year-old Tom Curry will captain the side against Scotland partnered by Lewis Ludlam and Sam Simmonds; and Marcus Smith starts at flyhalf. The mercurial Smith knows how good he is, and despite Jones’ ramblings about Smith having to play alongside Owen Farrell to realise his potential, I think he’ll cope pretty well on his own and I can’t wait to see what happens when he’s fully settled in and in control.
England showed with their win over South Africa late last year that they have what it takes – they have a good chance of winning the Six Nations, Jones despite!
Powerful, mobile with a depth of talent and individual match winners in their squad, France are worthy favourites to win the title they arguably would have won if not for Covid-related interruptions last year. They have a great pack of forwards and a typically excellent back line that includes the world’s Number One rugby player in Antoine Du Pont, partnered at flyhalf by the brilliant Romain Ntamack and recent fullback sensation, Melvyn Jaminet.
The French squad have been synonymous with slipping on the proverbial banana peel the moment they have greatness in sight, but things look to have changed for the better, especially since Sean Edwards’ employment as defence coach. Convincing victories over Oceanic duo New Zealand and Australia last year continue to add to the growing sense that their time has come to lift the Six Nations trophy for the first time since 2010.
There are many things to like about Scotland at the moment, from the coaching excellence of Gregor Townsend and his assistants to the genius of Finn Russell, while in Stuart Hogg they have a captain who is consistently striking the right tone. His anger at how France’s potential margin of victory was the chief talking point before the postponed finale a year ago might have backfired, instead it galvanised Scotland into a performance and a win that establishes them as genuine contenders this time around. And Hogg is not afraid to embrace that label.
They’ll be coming in as underdogs and while they don’t have the strength of England and France on paper, they most certainly have the ability to topple any side on their day -they beat France and England away last year. If Wales could do it last year, there is no reason why Scotland can’t pull off an upset series win this year.
Everyone wants to see if the team that gave us all gooseflesh last Autumn has remained on the boil and whether they can turn in the same level of heart-stopping rugby that knocked the mighty All Blacks right off their perch last year.In Andy Farrell and Mike Catt Ireland have found a coaching combination potentially so effective they could lead the Irish through a Six Nations win and into the World Cup as favourites, and wouldn’t that be just magnificent to see! Johnny Sexton has been wonderful at Number 10, he has the capable backing of Bundi Akhee and Garry Ringrose in midfield, and a physical and mobile pack that continues to impress with the way they just steamroll opponents out of their way.
To me, it’s a question of whether Ireland can handle their status as potentially the world’s best team, and the high expectations from fans and media that go along with that. If they can squeeze past France in round two and they will take some stopping.
They’ve been plagued by injuries and all the signs suggest a difficult championship for Wales but they have won grand slams when starting off in similar circumstances and Wayne Pivac can still select a decent first 15 to slug it out with the best. They began their autumn campaign poorly, with a sloppy performance against the All Blacks, but improved thereafter and November form has never been a bellwether for Wales’s fortunes in the Six Nations anyway. Dan Biggar is a shrewd choice as captain, he’s been at the peak of his powers for a while, and Louis Rees-Zammit, rugby’s current pin-up boy, showed with his try against Newcastle last week that he’s a potential game winner. I feel for my son Jimbo, but he’s just an injury away from selection and we’ll be shouting hard for the men in red to do well. In reality, however, I think Wales will be lucky to finish in the Top four this term.
The perennial whipping boys and if one looks at the tallies scored against them last year, they’ll be no-hopers again. Let’s trust we can see something more inspiring from them this term, otherwise the Six Nations powers-that-be will surely have to consider relegation – an opportunity for a team from elsewhere to compete – or revert to Five Nations, perhaps unlikely but if Italy remain poor something will have to be done in a hurry. Italy, I see, are quoted between 750 and 1000 to 1 to win the series with most bookmakers, I would’ve thought they’d be even more generous than that!
First round games:
Scotland vs England
Eddie Jones has described Scotland as ‘hot-pot favourites’ to win this encounter at Murrayfield, but that, we know, is just a ploy. A fascinating contest in which my heart says Scotland and my head says England.
Ireland vs Wales
With Ireland on perhaps an all-time high and Wales injury-ridden, the Irish must be a confident choice to win. There are a few questions to be answered on both sides, and I can’t wait.
France vs Italy
By all accounts, a foregone conclusion. France will be disappointed if they don’t win by 50 points or more. I’m hoping Italy can try, at the very least, to prevent a few tries from being scored against them.
Cheers until next week. – IRC.